A candlelight vigil to raise awareness of conditions at immigrant detention centers, especially those at the southern border, has been scheduled for Friday night in downtown Fort Wayne.
The vigil, “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Inhumane Detention Camps,” will take place 8 p.m. on the Allen County Courthouse green at Clinton and Main streets.
The event is organized by residents who share a concern that children and families seeking asylum are not being treated well by U.S. authorities, said Kimberly Koczan-Flory, one of the organizers.
“The welfare of children is vitally important to us, and we know that trauma is being inflicted, and that trauma affects children not only now but for a lifetime,” she said, referring to reports that some children have been separated from their families at the border as a matter of U.S. policy.
Koczan-Flory, spiritual director of Wisdom's Well, a nonprofit organization, said the candlelight vigil is one of eight being organized around Indiana.
Hundreds more are being held throughout the United States and internationally, according to www.lightsforliberty.org. Hundreds of groups and organizations, many of them religious, are listed as affiliates and sponsors on the website.
One person who plans to attend Fort Wayne's event, Nancy McCammon-Hansen, said she became concerned after seeing photos of conditions at facilities holding those who reached the U.S. border with Mexico.
“I get concerned when I see pictures of children in 'cages.' Our country is better than that and it should not be happening,” McCammon-Hansen said. “It's like we haven't learned anything from history.”
Active in the League of Women Voters and Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, McCammon-Hansen said one of her faith's main teachings is “respecting the dignity of every person.”
“We're not respecting the dignity of these human beings, and I find that appalling,” she said.
Koczan-Flory said the event will include music and speakers, including Flory's husband, the Rev. Brian Flory, pastor of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren, Fort Wayne. He was part of a local delegation from that church to the border in November, where he saw conditions firsthand and spoke with groups working to assist immigrants.
Another confirmed speaker is Fernando Zapari, publisher of Fort Wayne's El Mexicano, a Spanish-language newspaper, Koczan-Flory said.
Attendees will also be able to learn about voter registration, sign petitions to area legislators and connect with opportunities for volunteering on behalf of immigrants and those seeking asylum.
Attendees can come at 7 p.m. for assistance in making signs and are encouraged to bring candles, lighters and flashlights for the vigil, which is free.